individual as in man collective. To guide our thoughts, especially in its practical applications, it will be well, then, to keep distinctly before us the concept man, and also that other - the nation. The applications will then be rich and manifold. A striking illustration of the greatness of a nation is to be found in the slow growth and present position of Great Britain. That tree has indeed "reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth." The pre-eminence of the Anglo-Saxon race, including now the people of the United States, is a still grander illustration. Another hint - that we may not lose ourselves in the grandiloquent and miss the practical, observe that greatness is, after all, only relative, that all humanity is as nothing compared with the majesty of the Eternal. A workman may be relatively great in the workshop; a child in the school; therefore there is no limit to the applications of the subject. Apply it to the low levels of common life, as well as to the highest,
I. HUMAN GREATNESS - IN ITS RISE. Observe:
1. Its dependence. The tree and the man are alike in this - in being living things. Now, life at first is from God; and is ever sustained by effluence from him. The tone of the king (ver. 30) was that of moral madness (see also ver. 17).
2. Its growth. The tree from its tiny seed. The law of man's life is that he must grow. The tendency of man (both individual and collective) is to growth. He ought to be so indefinitely. The man that ceases to grow at forty or fifty, mentally, morally, is dead. The young, aspiring spirit is to be retained to life's last hour. Looked at on the reverse side, no greatness is instantly attained. Neither man nor nation vaults into the throne of moral eminence. Wait, but actively wait, not passively, as the child, of mere circumstance.
3. Its majesty. The tree majestic. Man majestic. So a nation. Let not false humility preach otherwise. The grander our conceptions of man, the higher our adoration of his Maker. Even sin cannot hide the original grandeur. A temple, albeit in ruins.
4. Its loneliness. Eminence ever lonely. The spires above the city. The snow-domes above the lower mountain ranges. As man rises, he retains, or he should retain, sympathy with all below; but he himself rises into a region where the lower sympathies do not follow him (see Robertson on 'The Loneliness of Christ;' and. Dr. Caird on Isaiah 63:3, in volume of ' Sermons').
5. Its conspicuousness. The tree was seen from every part of the far horizon. The more eminent man or nation, the more the observed of all observers. The attendant responsibility, therefore - virtue more influential, vice more pestilential.
6. Its use. (Ver. 12.) Literal pressing of the figure here impossible. Keep to the commanding central thought, that human greatness must not have self for its object. The eminence of man is for beneficence. We live for others, and in so doing find our richest life. One might be tempted to say that in this we contrast with God; but not so. All things, indeed, flow in upon God as their object, but only that he may again give himself, in the grandeur of his love, to the universe.
II. IN ITS DECLINE. Note:
1. The failure. In the dream-parable of the tree, nothing is said of the failure; but look at the man, Nebuchadnezzar. To appreciate his usual delinquency we must take account of the extraordinary character of his public works; the aim, pitilessly pursued, of his own aggrandizement; the consequent sacrifice of the wealth, labour, comfort, happiness, and lives of his people. (See 'Daniel, Statesman and Prophet,' R.T.S., pp. 119-121, 126, 127.) The eminence of the great king was not for use and benediction.
2. The judgment.
(1) Its time. In the very height of the king's prosperity. "I was at rest in my house, and green in my palace" (ver. 4). We do not know the exact date, but we know the time in relation to the rest of the king's life. At rest in domestic relations; no serious solicitude about public affairs; conquests achieved; great buildings finished.
(2) Its cause. Insist on the truth that the doom of men and nations is morally conditioned. Illustrations are more than abundant in modern life.
(3) Its source. Observe: the "watchers" here are not necessarily angels; for they are not objectively real, but subjective in the dream. Still, they point to a reality in heaven.
(a) Intelligence there. The watcher intellectually was characterized by a large, piercing, sleepless eye.
(b) Holiness. This the moral characteristic. "A holy one."
(c) Arbitrament there.
(d) Power there. "Cried aloud." The execution certain (ver. 17).
3. The decay. (Ver. 15.) Compare parables of the talent and of the pound.
III. IN ITS RESTORATION. Observe:
1. The subject remains. The man indestructible (ver. 15). The moral possibilities abide.
2. The conditions of restoration.
(1) The reawakening of the consciousness of God. (Ver. 34.)
(3) Bearing practical fruit. (Ver. 27.)
(4) The conditions accepted on the ground of Christ's atonement.
The atonement, so far as its efficacy goes, is a perpetual fact. The Lamb has been "slain from the foundation of the world." Knowledge of the atonement not absolutely necessary to those blessed by it. It stands as an objective ground, justifying Divine benedictions on the unworthy. The providence of God is the atonement in action. The moral government of God is, since the Fall, mediatorial, always and every where. - R.
And those that walk in pride He is able to abase.
1. See what his position historically was. He is a person of considerable interest in connection with the providential dealings of God with the human race. His name, his character, and his punishment, are alike a proverb. His connection with the Church of God and the people whom Jehovah loved, and the way in which he is made the subject of prophetic revelations, excite our surprise when we consider the marked manner in which his personal conduct is condemned and punished by a signal display of God's chastening anger. His position, therefore, as well as his personal character, become matters of interesting consideration. The point with which we have to deal in this character is the paradoxical union of overbearing pride with the strong conviction of the almighty power of God. This was not only a convection, but a fully realised truth, and one which frequently affected the practice of the king in such a way as to induce him to alter his whole mode of life; nor only that, but to go to the humbling extent of recognising before his people the errors of his idolatry and the purity of the persecuted religion.
2. The first question we have to consider is the nature of pride itself. It is one of the most inexplicable of the feelings to which we are subject. It is by many looked upon as of the same family with vanity, though, perhaps, no two faults are more widely apart. It is often applauded in the same breath with self-respect and independence of character, on occasions when it is a simple scandal upon those attributes to class them with it. In some of its manifestations it is capable of defying God; in others it is simply reducible to that amount of self-reliance and manly energy which is one of the highest and noblest attributes of man. There are so many gradations of pride, and so many feelings akin to it, that one of the best ways of ascertaining its distinctive nature is seeing it by contrasts. Compare the pride of Nebuchadnezzar with that of Saul, and with that of Herod. Amongst the holy and eminent servants of God, Moses had the tendency towards the fault of Herod. Paul, perhaps, more than any other among the saints of God, resembles in natural character that of Saul; while the character that most resembles Nebuchadnezzar amongst the servants of God is that of Jehoshaphat. Saul's was a character of genuine pride; one which firmly believed in its own inherent power of existence and action, independently of any superior authority or source; and if he professed belief in such, he only did so in conformity with national prejudice, or the associations of education. The pride of Nebuchadnezzar, on the other hand, rested on circumstances which were the adventitious accidents of his life; his empire, his successes, his vast dominion, and his prestige of conquest; while side by side with the pomp of circumstance he clearly saw the present Deity, acknowledged His power, and humbly bent beneath His vengeance. we was not essentially proud, though "his heart was lifted Up within him." With these two cases, what is strictly called pride ceases, for Herod's case is one of vanity — a fault far removed from genuine pride. Pride recognises some positive, indefeasible claim to independence of action, and irresponsibility, and is pained rather than otherwise when others attribute to it its own quality. Vanity simply takes pleasure in being praised for the possession of what it very often does not possess, cares far less for having it then being thought to have it.
3. In the world there are many representatives of both these classes. There is the man who has the impression that he stands independent of any being or power. There is the man who bases his sense of independence on some special attribute or circumstance connected with his life. The modes in which these two men should deal with themselves are very various. Representatives of the former class are Saul, using Samuel but as a tool, and the Mosaic law but as a machine. There, too, in the elder world is Cato, the representative of Roman independence; and Diogenes, the cynic philosopher, who, wrapped round in the ragged mantle of humility, covered a boson essentially proud. Widely different, and vastly more numerous, are the followers in that other wake; men proud of something; an attribute, a talent, or a circumstance. Nebuchadnezzar, boasting of his vast dominion; Sardanapalus, tenacious to the death of indomitable purpose. Xerxes, proud of millions; and Leonidas, prouds of tens. Pompey, proud of being leader of the aristocratic East; and Caesar, proud of guiding the destinies of the more popular West. Alexander, boasting of worlds which left no more to conquer. If members of the former class would correct their faults, they must first try to realise definite and dogmatic Christianity; they must hold and gaze at the creed, as if it were a limited, impersonating form of truth revealed by God. They must get rid of their tendency to subjectivity and contemplation, leading them into scepticism or latitudinarianism in their views of religion, and consent to become dogmatic. They are worshipping an idol made without hands, even "self."
1. We have here a very solemn warning against pride and vainglory. With all his ability, Nebuchadnezzar had nothing which he had not received from God. Whoever plumes himself upon what he has done in the world, as if he were the author of it all, and not simply the instrument in the hand of God, is as really and truly proud and haughty as was Nebuchadnezzar here. The merchant who speaks of his business as the sole result of his ability, and calls himself, with supreme satisfaction, "the architect of his own fortunes"; the author who thinks of his book as the creation of his own genius; the statesman who looks upon his position as entirely self-made, the artisan who prides himself upon his foremanship; and the millionaire who, looking upon his glittering heaps, congratulates himself as the sole author of his gains — all alike are guilty of Nebuchadnezzar's sin; for they have shut God out of their hearts, and they have not given Him the acknowledgment and the honour to which He is entitled. Then let us be "clothed with humility," and, wherever we are, and whatever we have, let us acknowledge God.
2. An illustration of the proverb that "pride goeth before a fall." Sooner or later the spirit which I have been now exposing will bring punishment upon him who cherishes it, and the punishment will be of such a nature as to make the sinner see and know the heinousness of his sin.
3. A beautiful illustration of fidelity in the proclamation of God's truth. It cost Daniel a great deal to give this interpretation of the dream to the monarch. The king had been very. kind to him. But necessity was laid upon him, and faithfulness, alike to Jehovah and to Nebuchadnezzar, required that he should speak the whole truth. Hence he gave the interpretation with the utmost exactness; and then, in the most courteous manner, he advised the king to repentance.
4. A loud call to us to thank God for the continuance of our reason. How seldom we think of this!
5. We are here reminded that the Most High ruleth in the kingdoms of men. God is the King of kings. This our comfort amid the movements of our times.
(W. M. Taylor, D.D.)
Plain Sermons by Contributors to, Tracts for the Time.This is a very remarkable confession, considering it only as the acknowledgment of a mighty, and proud king, thoroughly and sincerely humbled before his God. The humiliation of so great a monarch in the sight of the whole world — both of the Jews, whom he had brought low, and of the Babylonians, who were inclined to make him an idol — was in itself a great example of God's power over the hearts of men, and a powerful witness before the heathen to the name and honour of the true and only God. But the case is full of deeper and diviner meaning, when we regard Nebuchadnezzar as the type and pattern of the great anti-Christian power, the power of the world, opposed from the beginning to the Kingdom of the saints of the Most High, and the power of His Christ. In this light we see that the king's humiliation was also a type and pattern of the complete victory, one day to be attained, of the Christian Church over all opposing forces. That Nebuchadnezzar was a type or pattern of the great anti-Christian power we may discern from the following considerations.
1. Babylon is in Scripture opposed to Jerusalem. It is the proper name of the city of the world, as opposed to the city of God.
2. Nebuchadnezzar was a king of extraordinary valour, wisdom, and spirit; a thorough sample or specimen of what this world entitles "a great man." He had been influenced for good by a former dream: still the great change, from pride to humility, remained to be wrought in Nebuchadnezzar. A complete victory was obtained by God's almighty grace and providence over the spirit of the world and of anti-Christ in the person of this great king... These astonishing providences of old, these dealings of God with His people on a large scale, are in reality and substance the same as His dealings with each individual among us.
(Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Time. ")
II. THEY THAT WALK IN PRIDE SHALL BE ABASED. God hath said it; and what He has said He will most surely accomplish. Both the apostle James and the apostle Peter make use of the same words: "God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace unto the humble." If you ask why so great a stress is laid upon this in God's Word, it is because pride is infinitely hateful to God. There is in all sin that which stands opposed to God; but there is in pride that which insults Him, that which rejects Him, that which dethrones Him. And as destructive is it to the soul. For no proud, unsubdued spirit can ever see aught of beauty in Christ.
III. But now observe that GOD IS ABLE TO ABASE THEM. So Nebuchadnezzar knew. Truly he had lessons, awful lessons; he had proof, awful proof, laid upon him, that God "is able to abase." There are some striking exhibitions of this same truth in the prophets. In the sixteenth chapter of Isaiah, we have a particular notice of proud Moab; observe, in the sixth verse, "We have heard of the pride of Moab (he is very proud), even of his haughtiness, and his pride, and his wrath" — so notorious, it Is mentioned thrice in one verse — "Therefore shall Moab howl for Moab; every one shall howl; for the foundations of Kir-hareseth shall ye mourn; surely they are stricken." Look at the thirteenth of Jeremiah, and there see how awfully the Holy Ghost directeth us to Jerusalem (in the eighth and ninth verses), "Then the word of the Lord came unto me, Thus saith the Lord, after this manner will I mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem: this evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart; and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing." Remark what the Lord says of Babylon, in the fiftieth of this same prophet, the twenty eighth verse: "The voice of them that flee and escape out of the land of Babylon, to declare in Zion the vengeance of the Lord our God, the vengeance of His temple; call together the archers against Babylon; all ye that bend the bow camp against it round about; let none thereof escape; recompense her according to her work; according to all that she hath done, do unto her, for she hath been proud against the Lord, against the Holy One of Israel; therefore shall her young men fall in the streets, and all her men of war shall be out off in that day, saith the Lord; behold, I am against thee, O thou most proud, saith the Lord God of Hosts, for thy day is come, the time that I will visit thee; and the most proud shall stumble and fall, and none shall raise him up; and I will kindle a fire in his cities, and it shall devour all round about him." Observe how again and again the Lord speaketh of her as most proud. I bessech you mark His dealings with His own people. They know it. Look at the great work of conversion. How He layeth low! For in what doth the life of faith consist? Many a believer here present can reply, "Dependent upon Christ for all I want and all I have; just as poor at the last as at the first; Christ my wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; living upon Him for what He has done, receiving from Him what He has promised, and having not one thing in myself to recommend, me to His notice, but bringing my poor empty vessel to receive out of His inexhaustible abundance." What is this but the "abasing" of those that did "walk in pride?" And what is the very life of a close walking with God? Why, it is but the continued denial of self. For what is the Spirit's victory? It is but His victory over that nature of mine that would always lead me to self; it is but substituting, as it were, the love of Christ for the love of the creature. Truly God is able to do this; and no one but God is able to do it. Afflictions cannot do it — the deepest awe upon the conscience cannot do it — the most alarming representations of eternal woe cannot do it — and the most winning unfoldings of Divine glory cannot do it. The ministers of Christ cannot abase the soul of man — angels and archangels cannot; they can rejoice over the abased spirit, but abase the soul they cannot. It is the work of God, the eternal Spirit, and no one but Him. And by what simple means can He do it! By a word, by a thought, by a glance of the mind, by a conversation, by a text, or by bringing before us some glimpse of the cross of Jesus. And the same power doth it take to keep them low. He always abases, that He may exalt. How patiently, then, ought you to submit yourselves to the will of God! "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time." And, above all, He would 'have you learn the perpetual causes for abasement. That is hew we ought to reason — what cause have I for deep abasement, that I require it so much?
(J. H. Evans, M.A.)1. PRIDE AND VANITY. In one of our famous English universities an annual sermon is preached on "Pride." No one will say that once a year is too often for a congregation, young and old, to be bidden to meditate on that thesis. Many learned things have been said and written upon the nature and essence of pride. Probably none of them could equal in impressiveness this account of pride-speaking, this repeated pronoun, the persona"" and-the possessive: "Great Babylon, that I have builded by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty." Whatever other definitions may be given of pride, certainly this is true of it, that it is the contemplation of self, a concentration in self, the having self in the throne of the being, as the one object of attention, of observation, of consideration, always, everywhere, and in all things. It is often assumed that this attention given to self is of necessity the contemplation of supposed excellence, that it is, therefore, so far as it is characteristic of pride, of the nature of self-complacency, or self-admiration, and yet some of the proudest of men have been at the very antipodes of self-satisfaction. It is the very consciousness of their own deformity, moral or physical, of their own inferiority in some prized or coveted particular of birth, gift, or grace, which has driven them in upon themselves in an unlovely and unloving isolation. Self-complacency is not the only form of pride. It is doubtful whether that self-complacency does not rather belong to the very different title of vanity. A beggar may be proud; a cripple may be proud: failure takes refuge in pride. Pride is self-contemplation, but not necessarily self-admiration; self-absorption, but not necessarily self-adoration. It is not quite evident from the words of King Nebuchadnezzar whether his besetting sin was pride or vanity. Something may turn upon the unanswerable question whether he thought or whether he spoke the "Is not this great Babylon?" I think that vanity always speaks. I doubt if the vain man ever keeps his vanity to himself. I am sure that pride can be silent; I am not sure that pride, as pride, ever speaks. If I would ascertain which of the two was Nebuchadnezzar's failing, I should look rather to the hints dropped first in the Judgment upon him, and then in the account of the recovery. From the one I learn that what he had to be taught was that "the heavens do rule"; from the other I learn that he then first praised and honoured Him that liveth for ever. This decides me that, however pride and vanity may have mingled (if they ever do mingle) in his composition, pride was the differentia; that pride which contemplates self as the all in all of life and being, not necessarily as beautiful, of perfect, or happy; not necessarily as satisfactory, either in circumstance or in character, but as practically independent of all above and all below it, — the one object of importance, and interest, and devotion; knowing neither a superior to reverence, nor an inferior to regard. Vanity, though, or perhaps because, a poorer and meaner thing, is also a shallower thing, and less vital. Vanity may still be kind, a charity. Vanity may still love and be loved. Vanity, I had almost said, and I will say it, vanity may still worship. Vanity does not absolutely need to be taught the great lesson that "the Most High rules in the kingdom of men," or "does according to His will in the army of heaven." Pride and vanity both ask, "Is not this great Babylon?" but vanity asks it for applause from below, pride asks it in disdain of One above. But in all this we may not have found our own likeness. There may be some here who are not by natural temperament either proud or vain; and yet when I think once again what pride is, I doubt whether anyone is born without it. We may not dwell complacently upon our own merits. Certainly we may not be guilty of the weakness and the bad taste which would parade those supposed merits before others. Pride itself often casts out vanity, and refuses to make itself ridiculous by saying aloud, "Is not this great Babylon?" But the question is not whether we are self-admirers, but whether we are self-contemplators; not whether we are conceited in our estimate of gifts or graces, in our retrospect of attainments or successes, in our consciousness of power, or our supposition of greatness, but whether, on the contrary, we have constantly in our remembrance the derivation and the responsibility, and the accountableness of all that we have and are; whether there is a higher presence and a diviner being always in our view, making it impossible to admire or to adore that self which is so feeble and so contemptible in comparison; whether we are so in the habit of asking ourselves the two questions: "What hast thou which thou hast not received?" and "What hast thou for which thou shalt not give an account?" as to maintain always the attitude of worship, and the attitude of devotion within, and this superscription ever upon the doors and gates of the spiritual being, "Whose I am and Whom I serve."
II. GOD'S JUDGMENT ON PRIDE. We have formed now from the history perhaps some idea of pride. We have heard what pride says to itself in the secrecy of its solitude. The same history shall suggest another thought or two about it, and the first of these is its penal, its judicial isolation. "They shall drive thee from men." We are not going to explain away the literal, or at least the substantial fulfilment of this prophecy. Though it would be untrue to say that medical history furnishes a complete illustration of the judgment threatened and executed upon King Nebuchadnezzar, yet medical history does afford a sufficient likeness of it to render the fact, not credible only, for that its being written in the Bible would make it, but approximately intelligible. Some grievous forms of insanity in which the sufferer finds himself transfigured, in imagination at least, into an irrational creature, of which he adopts the actions and gestures, the tones and the habits, under which, in that harsh and cruel treatment of madness, from which even kings down to our own age were not exempt, the dweller in a palace might find himself exiled from the society and companionship of men. Something of this kind may seem to be indicated in this touching and thrilling description, and the use now to be made of it requires no more than this brief and general recognition of the particulars of the history from which it is drawn. He was driven from men; the Nemesis of pride is isolation. The proud man is placed atone in the universe, even while he dwells in a home. This is a terrible feature; this is the condemning brand of that self-contemplation, that self-concentration, that self-absorption, which we have thought to be the essence of pride. The proud man is driven by his own act, even before judgment speaks, if not from the presence, if not from the companionship, at least from the sympathy of his fellows. This isolation of heart and soul is the Cain-like mark set upon the unnaturalness of the spirit which it punishes. No sooner is self made the idol, than it shuts the windows of the inner being alike against God above and man below. "They shall drive thee from men." Thou hast driven thyself from God! Another thought comes to us out of the history. Mark the words describing the discovery, "Mine understanding returned unto me; my reason returned unto me." What was the first use of it? " I blessed the Most High; I praised and honoured Him that liveth for ever." It is deeply interesting to notice, and it fully accords with the observations of medical men, that the return of reason is here prefaced by a lifting up of the eyes to Heaven as though in quest of reconciliation and recognition. Yes, prayer is no stranger to the hospitals and asylums of the insane. Our moral is, the pride which will no worship is of itself an insanity. Worship is the rational attitude of the creature towards the Creator. Pride, dreaming of independence; pride, placing self where God ought to be; pride, tolling of the Babylon which it has builded; refusing to recognise any being above or below external to it, yet possessing claims upon it, is a non-natural condition. Before it can recover intellect it must look upward. The first sign of that recovery will be the acknowledgment of the Eternal. We have yet one word, and it is that of the text itself: "Those that walk in pride He is able to abase." Nebuchadnezzar puts it into his proclamation of thanksgiving: "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, and extol, and honour the King of Heaven, all whose works are truth, and His ways judgment, and those that walk in pride He is able to abase." King Nebuchadnezzar knew it by experience; he had lived in ignorance, he had lived in defiance of it, he had reaped as he had sewn, he had walked in pride, he had been driven from men. "Seven times had passed over him." Not till he had lifted his eyes to Heaven, not till he knew that self was not all, did reason return to him. Honour and brightness came back with it. His councillors and his lords sought him. We in England know, by tradition at least, what the rejoicings are when a monarch recovers his understanding, though there may have been no judgment in that insanity which was the calamity and the sorrow of an earlier generation of Englishmen. Nebuchadnezzar may have meant only to enthrone the God of Heaven as cue God, though the chief God of the crowded Pantheon. That is nothing to us now. We can read his words and put our own construction: "Those that walk in pride He is able to abase." Solemn, awful, terrible confession; verified day by day in history, not modern only, but of to-day! How often in our experience has a proud man, quite apart from act or deed of his own, found himself under a treatment but too nicely calculated to humble him! How often has a rich man, building his house on the winnings of chance or of speculation, found to his discomfiture that he has built it upon the sand! How often has a selfish man, having but one tender spot or two in his whole moulding and making, staked his very life, we will say, upon two well-beloved sons, and then found, to use the Scripture similitude, that he has "laid the foundation of his prosperity in the first-born and set up the gates thereof in the younger." How often has a professional man on the eve of the last step to greatness developed some fatal symptoms of palsy, or consumption, which made him bid farewell to all his glory, and betake himself to his last gloomy home, in the vaults, perhaps, beneath this church! How often has a statesman, brought by the last turn of the wheel of politics to the very summit of his ambition, been laid low by the importunate strokes of a jealous and envious rivalry, and compelled to exchange earth for the melancholy Pantheon of posthumous fame!
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